Contend Earnestly: "Doing" is Part of the Gospel's Understanding

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Doing" is Part of the Gospel's Understanding

Grace is, just the like the old hymn states, amazing. So much so, that John Piper has stated before that we need to preach so much grace that we should have people asking the same question asked in Romans 6:1. Which is basically, if God has poured out his grace on me, can I just sin all I want to? This is actually a great barometer of your preaching of grace. Piper has stated that if a pastor isn't being questioned on this very statement, he needs to preach more grace. The point of this opening is to put forth that I am in no way denying grace, but embracing it.

Part of embracing grace and knowing how much has been bestowed upon me is to then ask, "if I have been given so much grace by God, what does He desire for my life?" The reason I must ask this question is because this is how any relationship involving love must work for it to be "both ways" instead of a one way relationship. I think of my marriage. My wife doesn't require me to do certain things so that she will love me. She already loves me, and because I love her, there are things I will do to make her happy. I will bring her favorite flowers, do the dishes, let her sleep in on Saturday and Sunday mornings and cook her favorite things. These are actions, not to prove I love her, but because I love her.

I wonder sometimes if we have lost this "art" of action that springs forth from the Gospel understanding. If you are like me, this post is tough to take. The reason is that I grew up with the idea that I must do certain things for God to accept me and to love me and to be "really happy with me." Things would be said like, "Your day will go better if you pray and read your Bible." Rules are put forth to keep the believer guessing how to please God. We made our own Pharisaical laws, like, "you must read the Bible for this long, or preach for this long to be legit." It was almost this idea that "if you do this, God OWES you that." That's not how it works nor is it why you should be doing works of righteousness.

The problem is that so many of us grew up in these (man I want to use a certain word here) crappy churches, that we lean towards never putting any sort of demands of action in place in our lives. We hate to have times of prearranged prayer or devotion time, we hate to have someone keep us accountable on Scripture memorization, etc. We want to live in grace and do things when we want to. The problem with this is that it is an over correction to the true understanding of being a disciple of Jesus.

The understanding of "disciple" has the meaning of one who is a learner or in the case of biblical narrative of the NT it was someone who was a "follower of Christ." Usually, in the historic practical understanding of these terms there have been two true leanings. One focuses on one's identity alone. Meaning, that because our lives are hid with Christ, we just accept the fact that we are sinners and will continue to sin and little action is called upon because we practically don't believe that we can ever "be like Jesus." The other school of thought forgets about identity and becomes practical Jews. Meaning, we must prove ourselves to God through our works, by how much we love the poor, how much we read the Bible, how much we pray, how many church services we go to, etc. It's been difficult to say the least to find middle ground on these practical theologies.

If one reads and looks deeper into Jewish culture, the terms "to learn" or "to hear" are very closely related and they always have the idea that one hasn't learned anything or really heard until they do. They go hand and hand. It has the same idea of your mom asking you, "did you hear me say to take out the trash?" And you respond, while playing video games and not getting up, "yes." The next question is seemingly the same in every household, "if you heard me, why aren't you taking out the trash?"

It would be silly if Matthew, the tax collector, said he was a follower of Christ if he stayed at his booth and never followed Jesus. But, the fact is this:

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
Matthew 9:9

We must follow Jesus when he calls us. Not out of obligation, but out of love. One of the best examples of this comes from Ezra 7:10 that explained how Ezra approached his ministry:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.
Ezra 7:10

Too often we study, then skip to teaching. We forget the most important part of our learning, which is practicing what we've learned. When we are doing this, we can then teach to make disciples, or other followers of Jesus. This doesn't mean that we are perfect, but it means that we are loving God by our hearts. Just like the fact that out of the heart the mouth speaks, it could also be said, that out of the heart the man walks. When we skip practice and go straight to the teaching aspect, we are going to make disciples of us, instead of Jesus. We are going to make replicas of our empty and stale knowledge of God.

I am not going to give you steps to follow or tell you how much you should be doing, that is between you and God. What I will say is that we should always be asking God to show us his will so that we can follow Him. We should ask him to reveal our weaknesses, not so we can perfect them, but so we can rely on Him who is the giver and sustainer of our souls. The idea isn't to become our own personal Saviours, but it is to follow our Saviour but know that when we fall, we are honest about it and seek forgiveness, from Him and from those we failed. Honestly, why would Jesus say, "apart from me you can do nothing" if he expected you to sit around idly on your hands too nervous to take action?

May we continually seek our God and trust in him so that he can guide our steps, not our idle loveless faith.


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